The suspect in the killing of three people at two Jewish facilities near Kansas City over the weekend could face the death penalty on state murder charges filed Tuesday, and federal charges that could also carry the death penalty are likely, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, who also goes by the name Glenn Miller, was charged on Tuesday in Johnson County, Kansas, with one count of capital murder for gunning down Reat Underwood, 14, and his grandfather William Corporon, 69, outside a Jewish community center on Sunday.
Cross was also charged with one count of first-degree premeditated murder in the shooting death of Terri LaManno, 53, outside the nearby Village Shalom Jewish retirement home where she went to visit her mother.
Both facilities are in Overland Park, Kansas, an upscale suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.
Cross was known by law enforcement and human rights groups as a former senior member of the Ku Klux Klan movement and someone who has repeatedly expressed hatred for Jewish people. a website bearing his name touts white supremacy and Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Nazi Germany who oversaw mass killings of Jews in the 1940s.
Cross, who is being held on $10 million bond, is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Tuesday afternoon. Two public defenders have been assigned to represent him.
Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe said the capital murder charge gives prosecutors the option of seeking the death penalty, but he had not yet determined if he will pursue that. A conviction would automatically carry a sentence of life without parole.
“I don't take that decision lightly,” Howe said. “He's committed some terrible crimes. This is about making sure justice is done.”
The count of premeditated first-degree murder brings a sentence of up to life in prison, with parole not considered for 25 years, Howe said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading anti-hate group, has tracked Cross for years, they said.
The group said he was involved in creating an armed paramilitary organization in North Carolina 20 years ago and is a “raging anti-Semite” who has posted online commentaries such as “No Jews, Just Right” along with calls to “exterminate the Jews.” He served time in prison on weapons charges and for making threats through the mail, the group said.
None of the victims in Kansas was Jewish. The boy and his grandfather were members of an area Methodist church and the woman attended a Catholic church.
But Kansas' U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said that it is the bias and belief of the suspect, not the identities of the victims, that determines whether or not hate-crime laws apply.
Grissom said any federal charges in the case, which could also bring a death penalty, were not likely to be filed for a week or more.
The shootings in Kansas comes as the number of violent attacks on Jews nationally has grown in the last few years, even though non-violent attacks have decreased, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“The shooting at the Kansas Jewish community centers is a sad and tragic event which reminds us where the spread of anti-Semitism and racism can lead,” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement.
Violent assaults on Jewish individuals or those perceived to be Jewish rose to 31 in 2013, up from 17 in 2012, 19 in 2011 and 22 in 2010, according to the group, which prepares an annual audit of incidents.
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City and Carey Gillam in Overland Park; Editing by James Dalgleish and Gunna Dickson)